French Chic versus Inspirational Italians!

OK friends,since being on the blogosphere (which has only been for less than 1 year) I am “intrigued” perhaps at times a little “astounded” by the number of blogs and books about emulating the French style of dressing (OK, before you go off the deep end, let me explain).

I love reading and following these blogs, but on the other hand I just don’t “get it”. Why? I am European (I am from the UK) and have lived in both France and Italy for short periods of time, and now live in Spain,therefore I should “get it”. But for me, I have to say when it comes to dressing and style, the Italians win hands down.

If you have read any of the books about dressing in the French way (and there are many), I have personally found them very formulaic and predictable. Nearly always the formula for “French chic” includes at least one of the following items:
*Chanel bag
*navy blazer
*Hermés scarf
*flat pumps or loafers
*Beige trench-coat

All very nice but predictable.

However, if you go and sit in any piazza in Rome or Milan, what you will see is a cacophony of style and glamour, but none of it predictable. Gorgeous cut clothes, killer heels, designer sunglasses, lustrous hair blowing in the breeze all while zooming around on their Vespas or strolling around the city.

Caught shopping in Milan

One thing I’ve learned in particular is that when it comes to Italian women and fashion, it’s all about "la bella figura";making a beautiful impression. This expression is a way of life for women in Italy, adhered to like a religion, no matter if they are at work, at home, or on vacation.

It’s not hard to fulfill this unwritten religious obligation in a country that has given the world such brand name fashions as Ferragamo, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, and more. With so many high-end labels at their fingertips, Italian women have elevated fashion to a new level, almost to an international art form that many other nationalities aspire to duplicate.

Elisabetta Canalis

Altho' not all Italian women can afford a full designer wardrobe, what they usually always splurge on is designer accessories; bags, shoes, jewellery etc.

Never underestimate the power of Gucci sunglasses!

I have both French and Italian girlfriends. If I am meeting a French friend, I can more or less guess what she will be wearing (in terms of style). If I meet with one of my Italian girlfriends, I never know what she will be wearing, and it will always have the “wow” factor. By “wow-factor” I don’t mean over-the-top, in a cocktail/frou-frou kind of way. I mean “Wow, how can she look so damn good just wearing jeans, a t’shirt and a butter soft leather jacket with matching bag, and not a Hermés scarf in sight?” My Italian friends never fail to astound me with their style.

Elisabetta Canalis aka George Clooney's arm-candy

And perhaps “there’s the rub” (as my good friend Shakespeare would say); because the Italian style is so unpredictable, personal, glamorous and authentic, there are no books written about Italian style, because it is something that cannot be prescribed. On the other hand, the French style can be easily prescribed and replicated, therefore losing it’s authenticity.

This is written principally about the style of women, let's not even start about Italian men!!! Even my husband was astounded by their style as we sat at a coffee shop, people watching in Milan.

I am sure there will be many of you who disagree with me, and that’s fine. Whatever your thoughts, I would love as always to hear them.

(Images courtesy of Grazia)


  1. Vanessa,

    I think this is a fascinating post. And I have to agree that Italian women are less structured. And I saw them as more "sexy" than French women.
    We visited Italy for two weeks last year, and I saw lots of colors, lots of tight pants, high heels, tall boots, and leather everywhere.
    We also spent a week in Paris. My husband's head turned far more often whilst we were in Italy than when we were in Paris!

  2. I think it's that French women are chic, classic, simple while Italian women have much more panache and it's acceptable and encouraged to show it off. I went to school with a lot of Italian people back in the 80's...and they all seemed to dress the same. Of course they were being raised here so they didnt have current and up-to-date influences.

    French women are about control (hello, look at how they eat!) while Italian women embrace la dolce vita!

  3. @Adrienne- I was thinking of you whilst writing this post wondering what you would make of it.I think it is as you say-they play with "sexy".
    @SP- thank you for your comments. I love the word "panache" you use; that sums up everything I was "trying" to say ;-)
    As you say French women are about control (verging on the clinically sterile) and Italians are about "la dolce vita" (as you so eloquently say).

  4. Vanessa.....I could not agree more, I agree with every single word you have written!!!!

    The French are chic, yes....but often very formulaic. Give me the Italians ANY DAY!!

    Great post!! :)

  5. Thanks Simone! I was worried this post might be too controversial and I would be out on a limb. But so far, so good ;-)

  6. Loved! this post! ... I think it brings to light the diversity that surrounds us. The photos you chose were perfect, especially the first one ... simple, classy and still comfy. Though I am guilty of the predictable list , I'm learning to embrace the unexpected added touch to an outfit. Mr. G. being Italian certainly does give much attention to his clothes.

    Wishing you a fabulous day! xo HHL

  7. I completely agree with you (as one who writes a francophile-inspired blog). Although I look to the French for strict deportment rules, most of the clothes I covet are Italian. The only French items I own are some Hermes scarves and jewelry and LV. Otherwise, I have several gorgeous pieces from Rivamonti, Prada, Cucinelli, MaxMara, etc. And my body shape is more conducive to wearing curve-loving Italian style rather than French.

    About some Italian style blogs as a reference? I would LOVE some suggestions. Spanish ones would be as appreciated, too!

  8. @HHL-pleased you liked it sweetheart. I was quite worried about going out on a limb, but the response has been really great. An Italian hubby-Latins definitely have charisma (my hubby is of Spanish parentage, but I still consider him my "Latin lover!")
    @Rebekah-surprised by your reactions but equally as pleased. I thought this might have provoked some stronger reactions knowing what a Francophile you are. That's what so lovely about my followers; they are all so wonderfully open-minded.I was surprised that most of the clothes you covert are Italian. I really thought they were French. Will see what I can research regarding some good Italian/Spanish blogs. Maybe my next post will be on Spanish style ;-)

    1. I would love some blogs on Italian (and Spanish) fashion, too! Whenever I am in Italy I love the style so much, but I have a hard time trying to find my own style. I guess French style would still be an improvement, but I feel so connected with Italy I would prefer to dress the Italian way ;)

  9. I should clarify: I love Hermes scarves and the neatness of French dressing and rules. But when it comes to actually purchasing items...I tend to buy Italian, and I have the Loro Piana catalogs and Tod's loafers to prove it! Italian and Spanish women tend to be curvier and appreciated for their curves more than northern Europeans. So, while I may have northern European roots, my shape is much more southern.

    You could do a series on chic Spanish dressing - especially in the heat of summer. That would be so welcome in this overflow of Frenchiness!

  10. Great idea! Writing doesn't come quite so easily for me, but I will start pondering what I can come up with as the heat starts to bear down on us. Thank you for the suggestion sweetheart :-)

  11. I love that you spoke up about this Vanessa! There is so much beauty to appreciate all over the world ~ not just the French! I second the motion about hearing more about Italian and Spanish style! That would be so fascinating!

    Hope you had a fabulous weekend! :D

  12. @Florence & Mary and @B
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments. Yes, I am going to ponder more posts on Spanish style; altho' writing is not a natural talent of mine. But it's lovely to get opinions on what followers would like to see; that really pleases me :-)

  13. So funny! I am always saying, what is it with bloggers fascination with Paris and French style!
    Give me Italian/Spanish women any day! They are sexy and womanly and glamorous and stylish. French style is boring rigid and uptight and all about adhering to rules that make everyone look the same.

    Oh I just have a bad back - travel worsens it mire than anything.

  14. (This is a comment from the lovely Fiona, who blogger refuses to let comment on this blog :-(

    "What a fabulous post Vanessa. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you've said, including the reason why there aren't many 'Italian Chic' books written. The first picture you chose is stunning, and the purple shoes just set her look off. What I remember
    from my two nights in Roma a decade ago is the sheer glamour and style of women (and men), even just out strolling around during the day. I don't know why we persist with the French thing either, but whenever I have the ideal me in my mind, she's always in Paris. C'est la vie!

  15. I think I am drawn to both cultures almost equally--I love the simpleness of chic flair but adore the fluid, curve accentuating looks of Italian fashion. My favorite foreign movie of all time is "Bread and Tulips". My favorite classic movie is "Houseboat". One features Italian women dressed in all kinds of ensembles; the other features THE Italian icon of our day--how Sophia Loren portrays an Italian woman, very aware of her sexual/feminine appeal through her dress and actions is inspiring.

    Maybe it just comes down to a European thing?? The overall look is just so different from what I see here in the States--many of the European cultures embrace individuality rather than cookie cutter looks. Just my humble opinion...


  16. What an intriguing post, Vanessa ... makes me feel I simply must hop a plane to Milan at the first opportunity!! The thought of sitting in a cafe watching the Italian style walk by (and making notes) sounds like a perfectly fabulous afternoon! xoxo

  17. OOh very fun pics and I want to visit there one day. Those Gucci glasses are so hot, they look great on her. Nice post!


  18. What a fabulous post, Vanessa. And I have to agree with you 100%. Although I do admire French women very much, Italians have always captured my imagination much more :)

  19. (New reader here, I came from Cupcake Caramel...)
    I think you can find bad taste in both countries - I was in Paris last Oct and in some cases I was less than impressed.
    But in any cases, I'd agree italian women show more "courage" - even if the results sometimes are questionable.
    And it's not we don't like classics, I think what sets us apart is some dose of unexpected. My boss yesterday wore a white blazer with big black round decorations (not dots). It was very unusual, and I am not sure I'd ever have bought such blaser. But the ensemble was really pleasant to the eye.
    Just an example, but I think it conveys the idea...

  20. An "anonymous" comment sent to me via e.mail.

    "Just read your great post on French and Italian Chic. Unfortunately, there is no anonymous way to leave a messages so I can't leave a comment but I thought you might like to hear from a reader regardless. :)

    I totally agree with you. In fact, a couple of years ago on the French Chic site, I wrote that if there were an Italian Chic site I would be there in a heartbeat!

    I'm originally from Melbourne, Australia, and grew up with a lot of lovely Italian migrants. Because the majority seemed to come from the south of Italy my view of Italian women was that they were little and round and always wore dumpy black clothes. So I was quite shocked on my first trip to Italy (northern part) when they were elegant, gorgeous people! I really believe the most stylish people in the world are Italians. In fact, when I go to Southbank in Melbourne, I can always spot the Italian tourists a mile away.

    Another side story (this is becoming a saga - maybe I wouldn't have been able to fit it all in the comments anyway) is during the Chinese olympics, Sonia Kruger was reporting for Australian breakfast television. Sonia is always gorgeous and a lovely, smiling person as well. I think at the time she must have been in her late 30's, maybe 40. When she walked into the international media cafeteria, the Italian media (men) stood up and applauded her as she walked past! I love this story because it speaks volumes about how much the Italian men appreciate the effort that women put into their appearance. Perhaps if more western men noted how their women looked, maybe more women would make an effort.

    Anyway, this is the first post of yours that I have read and really enjoyed it. So I'm off to read the rest of your blog".

    @Anonymous- thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to send in your detailed comments which really add to this discussion.

    @Chiara-thank you so much for joining this discussion. I so agree with you, there is "bad taste" everywhere ;-)
    I think it's as you so rightly say, Italian women have the courage to "push the envelope" when it comes to fashion.

  21. The Italian fashion shouldn't be underestimated... I love the model in the first picture :)
    ...and those Gucci sunglasses. So stylish !

  22. I've had this page open for a bit, but just got around to reading it and commenting. I love both French Chic and Italian Chic blogs and sites. As someone who grew up speaking French, I explored that first. But my body is more womanly, more Italian fitting. And God knows I've yet to find a sunglasses company as good as Gucci! (and really, when they fit so well, there really reason to look elsewhere.) I think the Italians tend to have a vast variety of fashion really, meaning what you see in trendy Rome is completely different than Milan or Venice. I love it all...England (I love Burberry's more edgy styles), France, Italy, and Spain... they all bring something wonderful to the table!

  23. Italian fashion is really exciting.... I love this kind of fashion.

  24. I love also image. There are one of the best image of the girls like to best of the other or unique to bag on hand and sun-glass. There are really best of them.

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  25. Such Image give me anew genre and having gold that model is just like a fairy.

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  26. I was on board until you said you had a friend named shakespeare.

  27. For me the Italians win, ever since I live there in the 80's, and I have returned every year since, they only get better, just like there wines

  28. It's simple: Frenches want to look elegant, while Italians want to look sexy. I prefer Italy in everything, fashion, food, art, movies, culture. Maybe because my latin roots (I'm from Brasil) I feel more comfortable in Italy where everyone looks more warm and nice than in France.

  29. Totally agree! I was in Italy recently and the women are drop-dead fabulous, AND unpredictable!! They are far more naturally beautiful than the French ( who tend to be plain) and far more adventurous with colour and cut. I never tired of looking at them.


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